Three years after Scotland were handed the pool draw from hell, five months since they began their World Cup training camp and five weeks since arriving in France for rugby’s biggest tournament. And now it all comes down to this.
There are a mind-bending number of scenarios that could come into play in Scotland’s quest for a place in the quarter finals but the simplest is this – defeat Ireland by eight points and knock the world number one team out.
Doing so would be seismic. Ireland are unbeaten in 16 games, they haven’t lost to Scotland since 2017 and they showed in a ferocious win over South Africa that they have the brains and the brawn to go all the way and lift the Webb Ellis trophy at the end of October.
“Well, why not?” quipped head coach Gregor Townsend when asked why he believed this would be the time Scotland finally toppled the boys in green. Townsend pointed out: “The players have performed in massive games before.”
Sitting in a vast conference room at Scotland’s new team hotel on the eastern outskirts of Paris, the coach was referencing how his men have banished a number of unwanted records in recent years.
Winning at Twickenham for the first time since 1983. Victory over France in 2021 to end a 22-year wait for victory in Paris. Huge performances delivered by the very players who will take to the field on Saturday night.
Every player we have spoken to has mentioned the phrase “we won’t die wondering”. They believe the pressure is off, that nobody expects Scotland to upset the odds. They intend to play with freedom but fuelled by the fire of proving people wrong.
The Scots boast a backline as good as any in the world. Electric try scoring threats in Duhan Van Der Merwe, Darcy Graham and Blair Kinghorn. A perfect midfield blend in the shape of Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones. Finn Russell will orchestrate everything from stand off.
The battle up front will be decisive. Ireland are so disciplined and so accurate that disrupting their flow can be one of the hardest gigs in rugby. The dark blues pack will need to take their game to the edge of the laws and hope to stay on the right side of the referee.
This crazy pool stage draw means that one of the top sides in the world is going home on Sunday and the odds are stacked that it will be Scotland.
Like Japan four years ago it could all end in misery. It could be that most Scottish of outcomes – “glorious failure”.
After so much time preparing for this fixture and knowing it would be “do or die”, this squad of players has the genuine capability to write a different ending.
STV News is now on WhatsApp
Get all the latest news from around the countryFollow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp
Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country